Economics Department


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Published (as Chapter 11) in The Economics of Immigration: Theory and Policy, ed. Hendrik Van den Berg and Örn B. Bodvarsson (Berlin & Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2009), pp. 287–313; doi: 10.1007/978-3-540-77796-0_11 Copyright © 2009 Springer Verlag. Used by permission.


One of the results of the clash between immigration policies and economic incentives is unauthorized immigration. There is no accurate data on unauthorized immigration, but estimates permit some empirical work. The motives for immigrants to enter the destination country without formal authorization are the same as those that lead immigrants to seek legal entry, and the static labor market model of immigration can be used to explain the flows of unauthorized immigrants. There are additional factors to consider, however. Unauthorized immigrants do not normally enjoy the same civil rights as legal immigrants, so the potential rewards from immigrating are unlikely to be the same for legal and unauthorized immigrants. There are other interesting questions, such as why so many destination countries implicitly accept substantial numbers of unauthorized immigrants, even though their formal laws and regulations call for their strict punishment and expulsion. Unfortunately, we have few answers.

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